'Playing out from the back is a nonsense' - former Northern Ireland midfielder Hughes

Michael Hughes won 71 caps for Northern Ireland
Michael Hughes won 71 caps for Northern Ireland

Former Northern Ireland midfielder Michael Hughes says watching teams play out from the back is one of his 'biggest bugbears'.

One of the features of the Michael O'Neill era has been NI's ability to play their way up the pitch and refrain from taking the old-fashioned route one approach.

But Hughes, who was speaking on this week's edition of BBC Sport NI's Irish League Behaviour podcast following Northern Ireland's defeat by Germany in Frankfurt, strongly disagrees with coaches encouraging players to pass out from the back from a young age.

After former Northern Ireland defender John O'Neill pointed out that the current NI crop play more football than the Green and White Army have ever done, Hughes interjected with his strongly held views.

"I don't know if it's for the better to be honest, with all this passing out from the back malarkey," said the former Manchester City and Wimbledon midfielder.

"For me, it's a new fandangled way of playing football. It came in with the Barcelona team a number of years ago and then Pep Guardiola took it to Manchester City.

"Everybody is trying to play football out from the back and it's causing them more problems, it's bringing teams onto you."

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is one of several coaches synonymous with building from the back
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is one of several coaches synonymous with building from the back

Hughes, who scored five times for Northern Ireland during his 71-cap international career, has had his opinion reinforced when going to watch his son play football.

"I would go and watch a bit of kids football, one of the younger boys plays - seven years of age," explained the former Carrick Rangers boss.

"They're trying to teach these kids, who can't control the ball at the minute, to receive the ball from the goalkeeper.

"The opposing team aren't allowed to tackle him until he has a touch. It's farcical. For me, they're teaching the game the wrong way round."

Hughes, who memorably scored for Northern Ireland against Germany at Windsor Park in a 1998 World Cup qualifier, says he prefers the more traditional approach of getting passes up to a physically imposing target man.

"It's one of my biggest bugbears to see all these teams playing the ball out from the back, even at the highest level.

"For me, I'm going to get myself a big, ugly, massive, 6ft 4in centre forward and say 'put the ball on his head' and play up there, win the knockdowns.

"This playing out from the back, it's a nonsense."

O'Neill pinpoints Jonny Evans' 'biggest asset'

John O'Neill, who said he "agreed 100 per cent" with Hughes' assertion, believes that Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans' greatest skill is his ability to anticipate danger.

While praising the Leicester City centre-back, O'Neill also said Josh Magennis gave Netherlands defensive pair Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt one of the toughest games they'll experience this season with his physicality.

"The biggest asset Jonny Evans has is that he spots the danger early and he makes it look so easy.

"He doesn't get himself into situations where he has to retrieve things.

"Van Dijk and De Ligt, once you put them under physical pressure, they don't experience that anymore, they struggle.

You can listen to the Irish League Behaviour podcast on BBC Sounds here.

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